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North Vancouver’s Capilano River Regional Park

Capilano Lake at the Cleveland Dam

Capilano River Regional Park is a spectacular park located in North Vancouver. It’s just a couple of minutes from the base of Grouse Mountain.


In this article you’ll find the following information about the following topics:

Cleveland Dam | Capilano Salmon Hatchery | Walking TrailsTips and Advice | Other Information


Beautiful Capilano River Park

The City of Vancouver and the Lower Mainland rely on Capilano Lake for their water. The Lake is one of the region’s main reservoirs and as such is ringed by a chain-linked fence that stops visitors from going down to the water. People, though, can still able to admire this magnificent life-saving body of water when visiting Capilano River Park or when riding the Skyride gondola on their way up or down Grouse Mountain, which is at the foot of Capilano Lake.

At the main entrance to the park is Cleveland Dam, Capilano Lake and one of the most beautiful views in the Lower Mainland. The park at Cleveland Dam is a great place for a picnic, hike, brief stop for a stroll, or to take photos of the scenery.


Cleveland Dam

Capilano Lake is an offshoot of Cleveland Dam. You can walk across the dam and look down into the vast canyon below. Click Cleveland Dam for more information.


Cleveland Dam Viewing Area
The Cleveland Dam in Winter


Capilano Salmon Hatchery

The Capilano River Hatchery is located downstream from Cleveland Dam and Capilano Lake. The hatchery is famous for its salmon. The path down from either side of the dam is a nice short walk. The route is a loop so you can walk down one way and back up the other. In total it takes about 20 minutes to walk in either direction. If you don’t feel like walking, you can drive straight to the hatchery.

Once at the hatchery, which is open year round and free to visit, you’ll find an interpretive centre with displays and information.

If you want to learn about salmon and their life-cycle, the hatchery is the place to visit, especially in the fall when you’re almost guaranteed to see large salmon swimming upstream and through the hatchery viewing area on their way up river to spawn.

Most times of the year the hatchery isn’t a destination in itself, just a free and enjoyable addition to the park (so something to drop in at while on your hike). The exception is in the fall when the salmon are running – that’s when the hatchery becomes an interesting place to visit.

For more information about the hatchery, check out the Department of Fisheries and Oceans website.


Salmon Display at Capilano Hatchery


Capilano River Walking Trails

Capilano River Regional Park is an outdoors enthusiast’s playground. There are some excellent hiking trails, including the Baden Powell Trail, and some good biking trails too.


Hiking Trails to the Hatchery and Back

Looking for a nice trail to explore? Capilano River Regional ParkWe recommend crossing the dam and going down the far side. Follow the Giant Fir Trail, so keep left as you make your way down.

After about 10 minutes take the stairs to the left (which are marked as being part of the Giant Fir Trail). At the bottom, start heading along the path back toward the dam. This will take you to the Second Canyon Viewpoint. There you will find a great view of the canyon with the dam and its waterfall in the distance.

From the top of the dam to the viewpoint takes about 20 minutes, and then from there just another 10 minutes or so to the hatchery.


The Route Back Up to the Hatchery

From the hatchery, to get back up to the dam, continue up the steps to the right of the hatchery (unless you want to go back up the way you came). This other route involves a lot of stairs, at least for the first half of the way, and is about one kilometre long.

Lookout at Capilano ParkAt the top of the stairs you have two options: (1) find more stairs and climb them a further 200 metres up to the parking lot back at the top of the park; or (2) walk along the dirt road back up to the dam.

The road doesn’t compare to other parts of the park as it passes a couple of industrial buildings. It’s still really nice, though. Before you get to the top, you’ll come to another impressive viewing area of the dam. In total, the trip back up to the dam will take 15 to 20 minutes, all depending how fast you walk. All in all, this is an exceptional walk.

Instead of doing the loop, if you’re feeling really energetic, head back up to the dam and keep heading downstream. You can walk for miles, all the way down to the ocean if you want.


Hiking South from the Hatchery

When you visit Capilano Regional Park you can park at the top, near the dam, or further down by the hatchery. From the hatchery you can do the loop described above, or you can head further south and do a slightly longer loop.

If the hatchery is your starting point and if you head just a short way south, downriver, you’ll come to Cable Pool Bridge. The bridge is a pretty spot to admire the river from. There is also a lookout a little further along. From both spots you’ll sometimes see people fishing far below.

If you cross Cable Pool Bridge and head north (so upriver), you’ll be on the loop back up to the dam as described above. If you cross the bridge and then turn left in a southerly direction, you’ll eventually make you way down the mountain to the ocean.

Instead of crossing Cable Pool Bridge at all, if you stay on the east side of the river and continue heading south, you’ll find another wonderful trail. After a short while, you’ll come to another bridge. Cross it and you’ll be on the other side of the river. If you continue along you’ll make your way back to Cable Pool Bridge.

The above hiking routes make a figure eight-shaped double loop. The Cleveland Dam is at the top and the Hatchery and Cable Pool Bridge are in the middle. To do the entire route takes just under an hour. It’s a beautiful place to hike!


Lookout at Capilano River Cable Pool
The Lookout by the Cable Pool


Tips & Advice

Below are some tips and suggestions to help you make the most of your visit to the park.

TIP #1: If you do want to walk all the way to the ocean, and you have a car, then maybe leave your vehicle at Park Royal Shopping Mall or somewhere down in West Vancouver. From there, bus back up – or park at the dam and then plan to bus back.

TIP #2: Don’t forget to take your camera. The scenery is spectacular!

TIP #3: You’ll want the Lions’ Peaks to photo-bomb your shoot of Capilano Lake. The mountains are a magnificent backdrop especially when there’s sun in the mornings and early afternoons, and shade later in the day. The falls over the dam are in the sun just after mid-day depending on the time of year.

TIP #4: If it has rained recently, wear boots as the trails get muddy.

TIP #5: The park is an exceptional place any time of the year, whether it’s for a short visit at the top or for a long hike. The best times of the year to visit, however, are in the spring when the surrounding mountains are still covered in snow but the park is all lush and green. The autumn is also good when the leaves are changing colour and the salmon are spawning and on display at the hatchery.


Lions Mountain
The Lions’ Peaks Mountains


Other Things to Consider

  • Dogs aren’t allowed on the lawns at the park above the dam. However, they’re allowed in most other areas when on a leash.
  • Cleveland Dam is wheelchair accessible, but the walking trails through the forest are not.
  • The hatchery is also wheelchair accessible if you drive right to it.
  • There are trails for mountain biking, but many are for pedestrians only. This includes trails along the river and close to the hatchery.


Other Information

Click on the Capilano River Regional Park website for more details and an informational video. For a visual of the area, see the Park and Trail Map.

Other similarly beautiful parks on the North Shore include the following:

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